Packers take a step back

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 30, 2000

The law of averages says it was bound to happen sooner or later.

Saturday, September 30, 2000

The law of averages says it was bound to happen sooner or later.

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The Mankato East Cougars football team caught up with the Austin Packers on the Packers home turf Friday night for the first time in almost 30 years.

Cougars quarterback Ben Kaus threw for 83 yards, rushed for 79 and had a hand in two of the Cougars four touchdowns as East shut out the Packers 26-0 in a Big Nine matchup.

"We wanted to come out and get off to a fast start," Kaus said of the Cougars, who have scored on their first possession in nine straight games. "Our offense knew from the beginning of the game that we could move the football."

East did just that, moving the football 170 yards and collecting three touchdowns on its first seven plays from scrimmage.

"Seven plays is basically what it boiled down to," Austin coach Steve Knox said. "East came out in the first quarter and played well and we didn’t execute."

The Cougars forced Austin to punt on its first three drives, then put 20 points on the board before the Packers could blink.

East’s first possession started at the Austin 41-yard line, with Aaron Herzberg running for 17 yards on first down. East then ran the option on second down, with Kaus keeping the ball, breaking two tackles and scooting 24 yards for a 6-0 East lead.

Austin was forced to punt once more on its next drive, pinning the Cougars at their own 9.

But on the first play of the drive, running back Chris Bauer swept around right end for a 52-yard gain. Three plays later, East substituted strong-armed Joey Barr at quarterback. Barr promptly threw a 35-yard strike to Herzberg, making the Cougars’ lead 12-0.

"We caught (Austin) off guard a little with a no-huddle offense," East coach Gary Dierks said. "We wanted to dictate to them the (defensive) formation they’d use."

The Packers punted into the wind for a third straight time on their next possession, giving the Cougars the ball at the Packer 38.

Kaus dropped back on first down and hit an open Doug Espenson behind the Packer secondary for a 38-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion put the Cougars up 20-0 with 2:14 left in the first quarter.

"We have tall receivers and we like to take advantage of that," Dierks said of the 6-foot-4 Espenson and 6-5 Brandon Brustad.

East’s first three scoring drives took a combined 2:05 off the clock.

"That’s been our problem all season – the first quarter," Knox said. "East took advantage of it tonight. They’re the first team to come out and really belt us right away."

Austin’s defense settled down, not allowing East another score until Tony Dickmeyer ran in from two yards out with 2:02 left in the game. But the Packer offense had trouble getting on track all night.

Austin tallied just 159 yards of total offense compared to East’s 372. Austin (2-3) was led statistically by Isaac Knox’s nine carries for 42 yards.

Austin is at Rochester Century next Friday.